Global Jihad’s New Leadership Presents Challenges for the West


By WILLIAM MAYER

June 30, 2015 – San Francisco, CA – PipeLineNews.org – As outlined in a just published Institute for the Study of War [ISW] report, The Threat of New Al-Qaeda Leadership - Syria's Abu Mohammed Al-Joulani , the DC based think tank notes that the top rank of al-Qaeda’s upper level leadership is in a state of near constant flux, as important command individuals are either killed or become incapacitated.

Such is the case with Nasir al-Wahayshi, who was KIA in Yemen sometime early in June. Outside of his duties in that country, Al-Qahayshi led al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP] with considerable success.

The dynamic nature of al-Qaeda’s leadership presents a strategic choice for the group’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Though he could select AQAP’s new emir from the cadre of al-Qaeda’s long time elite, a more daring option has emerged which might prove more threatening to Western interests would be to advance younger potential generals who are already battle hardened and have proven themselves adept at field command.

“These individuals do not qualify for leadership in al-Qaeda according to historic paradigms because they were not companions of Osama bin Laden. They may nonetheless provide Zawahiri with new options to replace Wahayshi or otherwise absorb his death if Zawahiri is willing to depart from past traditions. Even though these commanders do not have the same set of credentials as typical al-Qaeda leaders, many of them fought U.S. forces during the 2003-2008 Iraq War or in Afghanistan after bin Laden’s initial resistance in Tora Bora. These individuals offer Zawahiri a promising source of future leadership within al-Qaeda because of their battlefield experience and, in many cases, their demonstrated commitment to fighting the U.S.”

The study continues on pointing out that many in this second echelon bring other advantages, aside from proven effectiveness, to the equation. They already have established “extensive regional networks,” thus giving them a distinct advantage over the traditional core followers who are not as intimately familiar with current battlefield conditions.

This lack of specific knowledge would generally make them less effective since their focus has been at the strategic level, rather than the day-in-day-out tactical operations which, after all, represent the tip of al-Qaeda’s spear.

Incorporating Al-Joulani into al-Qaeda’s top level general corps would tend to blunt the U.S.’ counter terror operations which currently concentrate on the terror group’s old guard.

“The singular focus of U.S. counterterrorism operations on traditional candidates for al-Qaeda leadership risks obscuring the potential threat posed by effective leaders of al-Qaeda affiliates who have potential to rise to leadership within the organization. The U.S. must evaluate its strategy against al-Qaeda in the context of current realities and recognize the developing trends within the organization that could require the U.S. to adopt a more comprehensive approach. Under current conditions, JN will likely continue to experience success in its effort to convince Syrian rebels and civilian populations that al-Qaeda is a true ally in their fight against Assad.”

The takeaway here is that Team Obama’s lack of creativity [some might say it’s ideologically/politically rooted in the canard that the jihad is AQ central] in seeking to blunt Islam’s holy war against “unbelievers and apostates” could well suffer a serious additional blow [the primary one being the CIC’s lackadaisical approach to counter-terror in general and unwillingness to commit the necessary resources to the long war] if it continues, as is likely, to concentrate on old, rapidly changing paradigms thus preventing the detection and neutralization of upcoming young talent.

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